Designer In The Spotlight (DITS) is a weekly feature that I run every Sunday (or more) to help particular individuals in the design community get their name ‘out there’ and to educate the community as a whole. It is a series of questions that asks the designer about themselves and their job as a designer. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming DITS post fill out the form here.
1. Please tell us more about yourself, your background, education and what you do as a designer.
Hi my names Albert Lo, sole owner and designer of albertlo.com. I live in the UK in a leafy suburb of Hertfordshire. I live with my beautiful girlfriend, have 2 cats called Jay and Coco and drive around in a red Mini Cooper S Works with Union Jack wing mirrors, you can’t miss the car as its pretty unique…fitting for a web designer.
My background has been till now within the traditional medium of Art and Design. I studied Multimedia Computing at university and decided to take the path of a Web Designer once i’ve graduated, the course taught me that I’m more suited to conceptual way of thinking and design work. As a Web Designer I also have knowledge of back end Web development but I like to say I specialise in the front end of web design.
As a web designer my skills lie in Web Design, Art Direction, Conceptual art working, Creative strategy, Usability, Web Accessibility, CSS and XHTML.
2. How long have you been designing and what made you become an artist / designer?
I have been designing for the web professionally for about 6.5 years now. I have always had a design eye from an early age. I loved traditional sketching, drawing and painting and from then I knew this is what I was good at through school, well at least that’s what teachers and friends told me. I decided to design digitally by going to university to study Multimedia Computing and from there it cemented my decision once I had graduated to become a web designer. I would never consider a different career path…perhaps being a Zoo keeper might persuade me.
3. How did you market yourself in the beginning of your design career and how has that differed to how you market yourself now?
At the beginning of my design career, I really found it a struggle to allow anyone to give me a chance and get my foot through the door, I concentrated on a well layed out CV in the hope of someone taking notice of me and distributing my CV everywhere. Designing and having a web portfolio really helped but I didn’t really shout about having a portfolio as I was afraid of criticism, so only recruitment agencies saw it.
Cut to now, I think marketing is an integral part of being a freelancer and I understand that now. Marketing for me at the moment is a learning curve. As I’ve gained more experience and worked for huge clients, there is more confidence in what you have done for people to be reassured. If you know you can do great work you need to let people know regardless of what people think of it, my marketing strategy is all about getting noticed in the community and hopefully sharing my experiences which someone might find useful.
4. What are your tools of the trade? This could include hardware, software and traditional tools.
My tools of the trade are an 24″ iMac, iPhone, A5 Wacom tablet, Icemat and Logitech MX Revolution mouse and an oldish Dell PC for x-browser testing.
I have the usual Adobe suite software but I cant live without Transmit and Textmate. My other useful software is Skype and Net News Wire. I still dabble with traditional art mediums so I have a blank canvas and oil paints sitting around which I’m waiting for inspiration for.
5. Where do you work and what is your daily routine?
At the moment I am a permanent member of staff working as a Web Designer in a Online and Telesales team. I work for a well known mobile Telecoms company but unfortunately I am being made redundant, my decision is to go freelancing / contracting once I leave my permanent workplace in a months time.
I’ll let you know my routine when I’ve hit the ground running with freelancing full time, I’m sure it will be an experience.
6. How do you manage the business side of design such as accounting, invoicing and bookkeeping?
Just having set up as a freelancer to start full time, I have left the business side of accounting to a professional accountant, This will leave me with more time to day to day runnings of things hopefully.
I’m not very good with numbers so I think its a good investment to get someone to look after that side of things if anything goes all wrong. Invoicing and bookkeeping will be my responsibility and hopefully will also allow me learn more about design as a business and hopefully grow in the future.
7. Where do you get your inspiration and how do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
My inspiration comes from numerous places, I find taking a break and going on holiday to a different culture provides fresh ideas, it’s an expensive way to find inspiration but when you go on holiday, make the most of it, take a small sketch pad or take a camera to record ideas etc.
I find going to the supermarket and book stores a fantastic source of inspiration to look at food packaging and book cover designs which could be used for the web. I love going to large cities for inspiration, the architecture and the buzz really helps.
I keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry by subscribing to numerous blogs and tutorial sites, I also try and find time to listen to a couple of design podcasts namely Boagworld and Rissington podcast and I also subscribe to a few magazines (.net, Computer Arts and Projects) to keep the juices flowing monthly. These can be good starting points for inspiration.
Recently I’ve got a better understanding of the power of Twitter and it’s a goldmine for news nuggets and developments on the web instantly as it happens, as long as you follow the right people.
8. Can you please guide us through a typical project from start to finish.
A typical project will start off with some sort of communication. I usually like to meet the client face to face to introduce myself and get a feeling for them and their business, if this is not possible then I usually speak to the client over IM or email. Once I know someone is interested I usually send back a creative brief for someone to fill in, this ensures the client is serious about the project or work by actually thinking about what they want and filling in the creative brief.
Once I have a creative brief back, I can then get all the information from it and get a good idea of the project and scope, at this stage I will communicate with the client and send back any questions before I start.
I will agree any assets and copy before I start.
Usually I might start off with a mood board to engage a reaction and discussion of the client to suss out what they like or don’t like and get a general direction with colours and look and feel.
I might do some brain storming, and wire frames depending on the size of the project and get the client to agree the direction of the project.
I’ll then come up with an initial mock design and send it back to the client for feedback.
Once I have feedback there probably will be amends and the cycle goes round again.
Once its agreed and signed off, the design will be built.
Once its all finished it will be signed off from the client.
It’s important that up front you agree what is to be delivered, when to deliver and when to be paid.
9. What are your top 3 websites / books and why?
This is a tough question, my top 3 websites/books are:
1. How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy (Author)
This book is like a bible, it reminds me of how it addresses the concerns of young designers who want to earn a living by doing expressive and meaningful work, and who want to avoid becoming hired drones working on soulless projects.
2. Twitter.com – This is a relatively new site to me but i’m so addicted to it. I have it on my desktop and on my iPhone. It keeps me in touch with what’s happening in the industry as well as keeping in touch with friends. I also like the simplicity of it to communicate to anyone who wants to listen as well as using it as a marketing tool and finding out answers quickly.
3. Digg.com – For me this is the ultimate site, it’s simple and so community focused. It keeps me updated in what’s going around the net and world. I’m never bored on this site. I can spend ages on this site.
10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
I’ve learned a lot by making mistakes along the way and to this day I’m still learning. My biggest piece of advice I would give someone starting out is to persevere trying to find your first design job, don’t get disheartened and be confident in what you design. Take your mind off things by coming up with personal projects or take a part time job, your first design job to get your foot through the door will come out of the blue when you least expect it.
Thank you Albert for taking the time to fill out this interview, it was a great insight!
If you want to be featured as the next Designer In The Spotlight, fill out this form.